PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities.  The games will run from July 25 through August 2. 

Athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents in Pasadena, California. The three delegations arrived at Pasadena City Hall, where residents turned out and local high school students offered entertainment.

The welcoming ceremony for Namibian, Singaporean,
The welcoming ceremony for Namibian, Singaporean, and Tanzanian Special Olympics teams at Pasadena, California, July 22 (VOA photo -Ronen Tivony)

The team doctor of the Tanzanian delegation, Juma Mwanandi Mwankemwa, is happy to be here.

“Because we had a very long journey, about 50 hours traveling, but the great hospitality of the people of Los Angeles since we arrived – we've had full attention, good accommodation, good meals, and good cheers from everybody," said Mwankemwa.

Around Southern California 6,500 athletes have gotten greetings like this.

Namibian basketball coach Malakia Matias is impressed.

“Oh, it's really, really amazing.  It's my first time here.  The atmosphere is just great and the people are lovely.  The reception has been overwhelming," said Matias.

This is the first international travel for many of these athletes, who are here to make friends, as well as compete.  The Namibian coach says he and his players are enjoying themselves after long months of practice.

“They have really good experience.  Now is the time when they have to display all the hard work they’ve put in for the whole year," he said.

Runners have brought the Special Olympics torch, called the Flame of Hope, to this and other sites around Los Angeles, traveling through 35 countries and all 50 US states in a fund-raising effort for Special Olympics by local police agencies. 

Opening ceremonies for the games will take place Saturday night at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the historic home of the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympic games.